Warnock to Dickens: Every eligible signature matters

United States Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock wants the City of Atlanta to ensure that the signatures, more specifically all eligible signatures, are accepted in order for residents that are not in favor of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, a $90 million project better known as “Cop City,” have their voices heard.

In a letter to Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, Warnock stated that he was “closely monitoring the litigation positions that the City has taken in light of our shared commitment to ensuring the ability of voters to make their voices heard in their government.”

In the letter, Warnock writes that he has been closely monitoring the signature match situation in Atlanta and has taken steps to meet with local voters and residents.

Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) (center) spoke to supporters in Sandy Springs during his senatorial runoff campaign in 2022. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Over 115,000 signatures had been collected and submitted in an effort to seek a referendum on the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, otherwise known as Cop City, Monday morning. The Clerk’s Office did not accept the signatures on the grounds that the submissions did meet the August 21 deadline. There is a 60-day deadline from the time the petitions were obtained by the municipal clerk, according to a statement from Clerk Emeritus of the City of Atlanta Foris Webb III.

“I urge the City to err on the side of giving people the ability to express their views, including by establishing clear and transparent deadlines regarding timelines and requirements and by using any discretion available to the City under the law to accept and count all lawfully collected signatures,” Warnock stated in his letter.

A final ruling is expected to be delivered next month. In the meantime, Warnock has questions he wanted to share with Dickens in hopes that the City is better prepared to verify signatures whenever necessary.

“Regardless of how the courts resolve this specific matter, however, I understand that the City may continue to receive petitions in the future and may need to apply its petition verification processes in other settings,” Warnock wrote.

In the letter to Dickens, Warnock mentioned how signature matching is a part of the City’s evaluation process for a referendum. The controversial system has been the source of concern for Warnock.

“I remain concerned about how the City decided to implement signature match, the City’s procedural transparency, and its ability to ensure that all eligible signatures are counted,” Warnock wrote.

In his letter, the Ebenezer Baptist Church Pastor and Morehouse College alumnus went on to say he would like to see the City “provide greater clarity around its processes for verifying petition submissions and take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that all eligible signatures are counted.”

Warnock also asked for greater clarity regarding deliberations on this matter.

Boxes of signatures collected by the Coalition to Stop Cop City were brought to the clerk’s office Monday, Sept. 11, 2023.
Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

The letter concluded with questions Warnock asked that the City respond to, including, bot not limited to:

1-Why did the City conclude that signature match procedures are necessary?

2-To what extent, if any, has the City shared its reasoning as to why signature match procedures are necessary with concerned groups, advocates, and other members of the public?

3-How did the City arrive at the decision that a signature be disqualified when “major elements of the signature deviate significantly from all examples on file?

A deadline of September 25 for a response from Dickens was given as well.

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